Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (or NRF2) is a protein in each of your cells that plays a major role in regulating resistance to stress. As a result of this function, NRF2 is also the target of a lot of research focused on neuroprotection.
A group of researchers from the University of British Columbia have recently published interesting findings that point towards to a biological pathway that could help us to better harness the beneficial effects of NRF2 in Parkinson’s.
In today’s post, we will discuss what NRF2 is, what the new research suggests, and how we could potentially make use of this new information.
Rusting iron. Source: Thoughtco
In his book ‘
xidation nibbles more slowly – more delicately, like a tortoise – at the world around us, without a flame, we call it rust and we sometimes scarcely notice as it goes about its business consuming everything from hairpins to whole civilizations”
And he was right on the money.
Oxidation is the loss of electrons from a molecule, which in turn destabilises that particular molecule. It is a process that is going on all around us – even within us.
Iron rusting is the example that is usually used to explain oxidation. Rust is the oxidation of iron – in the presence of oxygen and water, iron molecules will lose electrons over time. And given enough time, this results in the complete break down of objects made of iron.
The combustion process of fire is another example, albeit a very rapid form of oxidation.
Oxidation is one half of a process called Redox – the other half being reduction (which involves the gaining of electrons).
The redox process. Source: Academic
Here is a video that explains the redox process:
Now it is important to understand, that oxidation also occurs in biology.
Molecules in your body go through the same process of losing electrons and becoming unstable. This chemical reaction leads to the production of what we call free radicals, which can then go on to damage cells.
What is a free radical?
Graphene is widely being believed to be one of the building blocks of the future. This revolutionary 2D material is being considered for all kinds of applications, including those of a medicinal nature.
This week researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Seoul National University have published a report suggesting that graphene may also have applications for Parkinson’s.
The researchers found that exposing the Parkinson’s-associated protein, alpha synuclein, to graphene quantum dots not only prevented the protein from aggregating together into its toxic form, but also destroyed the mature toxic form of it.
A nano-sized silver bullet?
In today’s post, we will look at what graphene quantum dots are, review the new Parkinson’s-related results, and discuss what happens next for this new technology.
Prof Andre Geim and Prof Konstantin Novoselov. Source: Aerogelgraphene
They called them ‘Friday night experiments’.
Each week, two research scientists at the University of Manchester (UK) named Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov held sessions where they would conduct experiments that had little or nothing to do with their actual research.
These activities were simply an exercise in genuine curiosity.
And on one particular Friday in 2004, the two scientists conducted one of the simplest experiments that they had ever attempted – but it was one which would change the world: They took some sticky tape and applied it to a lump of graphite.
What is graphite?
New research provides some interesting insight into particular cellular functions – and possibly sleep issues – associated with Parkinson’s.
Researchers in Belgium have recently published interesting findings that a genetic model of Parkinson’s exhibits sleep issues, which are not caused by neurodegeneration, but rather neuronal dysfunction. And as a result, they were able to treat it… in flies at least.
In today’s post, we will review this new research and consider its implications.
I am a night owl.
One that is extremely reluctant to give up each day to sleep. There is always something else that can be done before going to bed. And I can often be found pottering around at 1 or 2am on a week night.
As a result of this foolish attitude, I am probably one of the many who live in a state of sleep deprivation.
I am a little bit nervous about doing the spoon test:
But I do understand that sleep is very important for our general level of health and well being. And as a researcher on the topic, I know that sleep complications can be a problem for people with Parkinson’s.
What sleep issues are there for people with Parkinson’s?
Inspiration comes from many different places.
For one young innovator it came from a character in a popular animated movie – an automated robot that could monitor and immediately diagnose medical conditions. This curious source of inspiration has now led to an award-winning piece of research involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a mobile app that can differentiate between people with and without Parkinson’s.
In today’s post, we will discuss this interesting unpublished research from an inspiring individual, who is trying to help us better diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s.
Have you ever watched the movie ‘Big Hero 6‘?
It is the story of a boy named Hiro who goes on an adventure with a robot called Baymax.
Baymax is a personal healthcare companion that is designed to diagnose and treat medical conditions instantly.
After watching the movie Big Hero 6, Shreya Ramesh became fascinated with the idea of the character Baymax. She began wondering how a machine could be made to be smart enough to analyse the medical conditions, make a diagnosis, and then offer remedies.
So she began reading a great deal about machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. Then she collected a large data set of information from people with and without Parkinson’s for analysis.
Sounds interesting. Then what did she do?
Next, she designed, developed, and tested a smartphone application (using Python scripts) that could potentially one day help with early diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
And Shreya presented her research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and she is now seeking to write up and publish her results in a scientific journal.
Wow. That’s really impressive!
Yeah. And she did all of this while still going to all her classes in high school.
Oh, did I forget to mention that she’s just a high school student?
Chinese researchers recently published pre-clinical research demonstrating the use of their protocol for generating stem cell-derived neurons for cell transplantation in Parkinson’s.
The data represents the last step/proof-of-principle stage for taking this procedure into clinical trials (which are ongoing).
In today’s post, we will discuss what cell transplantation is, we will review the new data, and we will consider some of the issues associated with taking this procedure to the clinic.
Brain surgery. Source Bionews-tx
As we have discussed before, any ‘cure’ for Parkinson’s requires 3 components:
- A disease halting mechanism – slowing or stopping the progression of the condition
- A neuroprotective agent – a treatment that will protect and support the remaining cells
- Some form of cell replacement therapy – introducing new cells to replace the ones that have been lost
Now, the bad new is that there is no ‘silver bullet’ on the horizon that provides all three (for example, there is no neuroprotective agent that also replaces lost cells).
But the good news is that we have a great deal of clinical research being conducted in all three of these areas. This video provides an overview of just some of the many different ways we are approaching all three components:
Recently a research report focused on a cell transplantation (a form of cell replacement therapy) approach for Parkinson’s was published by a group of researchers in China. They have proposed that the results presented in the report justify their efforts to take this approach forward into clinical testing.
What is cell transplantation?
Researchers at Cambridge University published a new report this week that extends on a very interesting line of Parkinson’s research. The studies focus on a compound (and derivatives of that compound) that has been derived from the dogfish shark.
The protein – called Squalamine – has an amazing ability to prevent the Parkinson’s-associated protein alpha synuclein from clustering (or aggregating) together. The aggregation of alpha synuclein is considered to be a key component of the biology underlying Parkinson’s, and thus any compound that block/reduce this aggregation is viewed with therapeutic applications in mind.
Unfortunately there is a problem with squalamine: it does not cross the blood brain barrier (the protective membrane surrounding the brain).
But a derivative of squalamine – called Trodusquemine – does!
In today’s post, we will look at what Squalamine and Trodusquemine are, we will review the new research, and look at current clinical research efforts involving these compounds.
The effects of aggregated Alpha Synuclein protein in a neuron. Source: R&D
We often talk about one particular protein on this website. It is called alpha synuclein. It is one of the most common proteins in the human brain, and it appears to be centrally involved with Parkinson’s.
In the Parkinsonian brain, alpha synuclein clumps (or aggregates) together, which is believed to lead to the appearance of Lewy bodies.
What are Lewy bodies?
An important aspect of developing new potentially ‘curative’ treatments for Parkinson’s is our ability to accurately test and evaluate them. Our methods of assessing Parkinson’s at the moment are basic at best (UPDRS and brain imaging), and if we do not improve our ability to measure Parkinson’s, many of those novel treatments will fail clinical testing and forever remain just “potentially” curative.
Researchers from Madrid (Spain) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed new technology that could aid in better measuring and monitoring of Parkinson’s over time.
And it is as easy as typing on your keyboard or sending a text message.
In today’s post, we will look at how the monitoring of typing could provide a useful ‘real world’ method of assessing people with Parkinson’s over time.
Measuring stuff. Source: Medium
When we think about new technology for the monitoring of Parkinson’s, we all too often think of a device that is strapped on to the body in order to measure tremor or speed of movement (Click here to read a previous post on wearable tech).
Or perhaps a smart phone app that has simple tests on it that individuals can use to assess themselves over time (Click here to read a previous post on this topic).
One of the issues with these approaches, however, is ‘adherence‘ – these devices require effort from the individual being assessed (they have to strap on the motion sensing device or remember to complete the task on the smart phone). And after the first week or so of using the device or the app, the novelty wears off and recordings may be less frequent.
Many of these methods are also slightly ‘unnatural‘, and they may deviate the individual from their normal way of life. For example, wearable tech is amazing, but the individual may find it uncomfortable to wear all the time or may alter aspects of their behaviour to better suit the wearing of the device.
A better approach would be to have methods of monitoring that require no effort from the individual. Tools that silently and seamlessly slip into the background of their lives and monitor continuously – the individual completely forgets about them, which provides a more unbiased assessment.
We have previously discussed some examples of more ‘real world/natural’ approaches (such as smart pills – Click here to read that post – and also with regards to sleep monitoring – Click here to read that post), and today we will explore another example: keyboard stroke monitoring.
What is keyboard stroke monitoring?
Today’s post involves massive multidimensional datasets, machine learning, and being able to predict the future.
Researchers are the National Institute on Aging and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign have analysed longitudinal clinical data from the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI) and they have found three distinct disease subtypes with highly predictable progression rates.
NOTE: Reading about disease progression may be distressing for some readers, but please understand that this type of research is critical to helping us better understand Parkinson’s.
In today’s post, we will look at what the researchers found and discuss what this result could mean for the Parkinson’s community.
Today I am going to break one of the unwritten rules of science communication (again) .
Until a research report has been through the peer-review process you probably should not be discussing the results in the public domain.
But in this particular case, the research is really interesting. And it has been made available on the OPEN ACCESS preprint depository website called BioRxiv.
So what does the new research investigate?
This week, biotech firm Prothena published the results of their Phase I safety and tolerance clinical trial of their immunotherapy treatment called PRX002 (also known as RG7935).
Immunotherapy is a method of artificially boosting the body’s immune system to better fight a particular disease.
PRX002 is a treatment that targets a toxic form of a protein called alpha synuclein – which is believed by many to be one of the main villains in Parkinson’s.
In today’s post, we will discuss what immunotherapy is, review the results of the clinical trial, and consider what immunotherapy could mean for the Parkinson’s community.
I have previously mentioned on this website that any ‘cure for Parkinson’s’ is going to require three components:
- A disease halting mechanism
- A neuroprotective agent
- Some form of cell replacement therapy
This week we got some interesting clinical news regarding the one of these components: A disease halting mechanism.
The Phase I results of a clinical trial being conducted by a company called Prothena suggest that a new immunotherapy approach in people with Parkinson’s is both safe and well tolerated over long periods of time.
The good folks at Prothena Therapeutics. Source: Prothena
What is immunotherapy?
At the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in 2015, the results of a small phase I clinical trial were presented and the Parkinson’s community got really excited by what they saw.
The study had investigated the use of a cancer drug called ‘Nilotinib’ (also known as Tasigna) on Parkinson’s and the initial results were rather interesting.
Two larger phase II clinical trials of Nilotinib in Parkinson’s are currently being conducted, but this week preclinical research of a new drug (called Radotinib) was published. And these new findings suggest that Nilotinib may have some impressive competition.
In today’s post, we will look at what Nilotinib and Radotinib actually do, we will review the new research, and we will discuss what the findings could mean for the Parkinson’s community.
Lots of research. Source: Thedaily
Earlier this week I wrote a post highlighting research involving a new drug (NLY01; a GLP1 receptor agonist) being developed for Parkinson’s (Click here to read that post). It was an amazing amount of work and a very impressive achievement for the research group that conducted the work.
It must have taken a long time to perform the experiments, and I figured that the researchers behind the study would probably take a well earned break.
You will understand that I was a little surprised the day after publishing the post, that I woke up to find that that same research group had published another rather remarkable amount of research… on a completely different novel drug (called Radotinib) which is also being developed for Parkinson’s!!!
Basically sums my reaction. Source: Canacopegdl
The words ‘You have to be kidding me‘ actually passed across my lips as I downloaded the new research report.
And the new drug is really interesting.
It is very similar to Nilotinib.
What is Nilotinib?